6 Answers From a Unique Book Cover Designer


Editor’s Note: Do you know how difficult it is to get a hold of a graphic artist who does book cover designs?

In my case, it’s been nearly impossible.

If I was contacting them about an actual and immediate job, perhaps they would have responded to me. But that hasn’t been my mission.

I’ve been looking for your sake, with very good reason.

Stated bluntly, there are too many people who do book cover designs for exorbitant fees. And I want to give my readers (that includes you) some worthwhile and affordable contacts in this regard.

That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Kathy Keck today... a unique kind of book cover designer who graciously got back to me. The owner of Touched by Fantasy Designs – a lovely artistic boutique – she did such a great job on her sister’s cover that she’s ready and willing to offer you the same attention to detail.

You’ll find her website information in her bio below, right after her excellent answers regarding book cover design.

They’re really quite fascinating and informative. I think you’ll enjoy them every bit as much as I did.

Kathy: Since I was very young, I was intrigued by creating artwork. It started in kindergarten with watercolor painting. It was just so fascinating to see how the colors blended on the paper towel after wiping the brush!

Through the years, I dabbled in all types of art, from crafting to painting, on all different surfaces. My high school art teacher (a renowned local artist) was very instrumental in giving me a good foundation for painting. He said I had an artistic gift and that I should pursue it.

This always stuck with me over the many years, and so I study everything around me now with an eye toward painting.

Several years ago, I opened my own business called Touched by Fantasy Designs, where I sell my artwork and hand-painted pieces. I also have an e-commerce website, Facebook page, Etsy Store and Pinterest page that you’re more than welcome to check out.

To be honest, designing book covers never crossed my mind until a few years ago, when my sister wrote a book and asked me to create her cover. We discussed her ideas, and I designed something that captured the essence of her particular story in a way that could relate to everyone.

The process and outcome was very enjoyable and rewarding to me. So much so that I’m now interested in working with other writers to design and create the perfect artistic covers for their works as well.

Kathy: Understanding the concept that the author wants to convey is the first step. Initially, I would speak to or meet with the writer to learn about the book and any nuances he/she feels are important to the book cover design. Understanding why the author wrote what they did is also key to my creative process.

After we’ve got that down, we discuss the book and the content of the story. I make initial sketches based on our discussion and present a few options to make sure we’re on the same “page” (no pun intended).

I usually use watercolor pencils and/or acrylic paint on canvas paper to create the actual designs. Sometimes I’ll incorporate three-dimensional objects to add texture and shadow along the way. For example, adding a few silk or real flowers to a garden of painted flowers can really make an image pop.

Kathy: I’m a freelance decorative artist who works with acrylic paint, brushes and canvas paper only – no graphic design programs whatsoever.

Sometimes I do research on the internet to assist me to define specific ideas and concepts, and there are several font libraries that I research to find the exact fonts that will work. But that’s the extent of my technological dealings when it comes to book cover design.

Once complete, I take a photograph of the finished work and send it to the writer, editor or publisher whichever is preferred.

Kathy: To me, the main image is the first impactful aspect of the cover. People are visual, and the phrase “A picture tells a thousand words” is especially true in the case of book cover design.

With that said, the colors and font used can definitely give a feeling of what is between the pages as well.

Kathy: The best way I can answer this question is: “Would you want a plumber to replace your roof?”

The author’s job is to write, and an artist’s job is to put his or her words into a visual piece on the cover that will “draw” the reader in. Personally, I’ve bought books that might not have caught my attention by the title alone, yet the cover sealed the deal for me!

By the same token, sometimes the covers were misleading and the story was not even close to what I expected based on the cover design. That is extremely disappointing.

When people purchase books, a lot of thought goes into their specific choices. Their decisions are based on what got them excited or interested. Books are an emotional experience, regardless of the topic.

A romance novel, for example, would probably not sell very well if the cover had a picture of just prison bars on the front cover. However, make the bars look worn and ragged, add a large, beautiful heart behind the bars, put a desert scene around them and, voila! Now it has become an intriguing scene about love and passion.

Or take an instructional manual for cabinet carpentry. If it just a hammer on it, it probably wouldn’t interest a potential buyer with just the title. But add a few How-To sketches and pictures of beautiful cabinets that the buyer can learn how to make if he buys the book?

THEN you have an interested customer.

If books didn’t have artwork on the cover, there would be no “hook” to the emotion of opening the book in the first place.

Kathy: Oh my. Fonts are a key element for a book cover, and they can even be more impactful than the artwork itself in come cases. Fonts are their own type of expression and should be used very carefully, since they can convey messages that may or may not be intended.

For example, a bold font such as block lettering, has a masculine feel to it and may appeal more to men. Whereas a flowing wispy type font will probably appeal more to women.

Back to my earlier example: The prison bars with the heart and desert – If the title was in bold block font such as Times New Roman, the title “CAPTURED” would invoke more of a feeling of actual prison and fear.

Whereas, using a lighter, more romantic font such as Apple Chancery, “Captured” presents more of a romantic implication.

There are thousands of fonts available – and to me, they are a fun and crucial aspect of creating the cover design. Bottom line is the concept of the book will be more obvious if the font used is the best representation possible.

About the Author: Kathy Keck is a decorative artist, born and raised in Allentown, PA, and currently living in Emmaus, PA. Her repertoire of hand-painted work includes stemware, mailboxes, slate pieces, terra cotta pots, wall murals, renovation restoration artwork, and repurposed pieces, such as windows and vintage wood chairs.

Kathy’s attention to the smallest detail in her work is always a distinctive quality in her pieces. Check them out at www.touchedbyfantasy.com or on Etsy.

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